Superhero movies may look ubiquitous now, but there was once a time when studios thought twice about superhero movie pitches instead of rushing them into production. Because of varying issues that range from studio hesitation to pure bad luck, some interesting ideas for superhero movies never made it to the big screen and left fans wondering about what could’ve been.
Here’s a look back at six of these big “What If” scenarios, and the potentially-amazing superhero opportunities Hollywood skipped.
6. Peyton Reed’s Fantastic Four
In the comics, the #FantasticFour was a team that embodied family values and heroic optimism. This was something director Peyton Reed, a self-confessed Marvel fanboy, wanted to highlight in his would-be adaptation of the Fantastic Four comics, which he pitched to Fox in the early 2000’s.
Here, the Fantastic Four would already be an established team as they engaged in city-wide fights against classic villains such as Doctor Doom and Mole Man. Reed’s movie also focused on the team’s dysfunctional family dynamics, showing their status as super-powered celebrities living in New York City. To top it all off, this version was at one point set in the ’60s – the same decade that the Fantastic Four made their debut in comics.
Thanks to creative differences and Fox’s desire to market the Fantastic Four to a younger audience, the director left the project. As ambitious as Reed’s vision for the team may have been for Fox at the time, it still would’ve been better than the Fantastic Four movies audiences actually got, with Josh Trank’s laughably edgy incarnation being the worst of the lot.
Peyton Reed then went on to direct Ant-Man, implying that he was always destined to direct a #Marvel movie at some point in his life.
5. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 4
Say what you will about Spider-Man 3’s cluttered story and Peter Parker’s (Tobey Maguire) dancing skills, but Sam Raimi’s #Spidermantrilogy still stands as one of the best superhero movie trilogies ever made. If the stars aligned in Raimi’s favor, his second most famous trilogy would have been a bit longer.
Spider-Man 4 would have seen Raimi retaining full control of the story, instead of letting Sony producers shoehorn elements into the film like Venom (Topher Grace). In this planned fourth sequel, the original cast would’ve come back and faced new threats such as The Vulture (John Malkovich), Black Cat/Vultress (Anne Hatthaway), The Lizard (Dylan Baker) and Mysterio (Bruce Campbell) in a cameo. No plot details have surfaced, but the casting alone was enough to get Spidey fans excited.
Spider-Man 4 was set for a Summer 2011 release date, but Raimi said that he wouldn’t be able to meet the deadline and keep the film’s integrity at the same time. This prompted Sony to reboot Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy into #TheAmazingSpiderManmovies. Sony’s decision didn’t pay-off, and the expensive gamble ended with the studio striking a deal with Marvel to make more Spider-Man movies.
However, the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming seems to be taking notes from the scrapped Spider-Man 4 since Vulture (Michael Keaton) will be the primary villain, among other things.
4. Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man
While not a terrible movie, #AntMan(2015) is regarded as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (#MCU) laziest entries. The original script of Ant-Man wouldn’t have just been different and more exciting, but as Avengers mastermind Joss Whedon told BuzzFeed News, the original Ant-Man draft was “not only the best script that Marvel had ever had, but the most #Marvel script I’d read.”
Though specific story details could not be found, director Edgar Wright and writer Joe Cornish are the people responsible for giving Ant-Man his foundation. The duo envisioned the Ant-Man mantle being passed from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), and they set out to make a heist movie that would fit into the vast MCU.
Due to creative differences with the notorious Marvel Creative Committee, Wright left the project despite dedicating years of work to it. According Birth.Movies.Death, the Committee focused too much on tiny details such as the fictional science of the Pym Particles and kept shoehorning references to the larger Marvel universe into the film. Thus taking focus away from the heist and Wright’s signature style of comedy.
The end result was a safe, but generic debut for the hero, which also became one of the MCU’s lowest earning films to date despite a solid box office performance.
3. Joe Carnahan’s Daredevil
Hoping that audiences would’ve forgotten about the failed #Daredevilmovie from 2003, Fox decided to give director Joe Carnahan a shot at redeeming the guardian of Hell’s Kitchen roughly a decade later.
Carnahan, known for making underrated action movies like Smokin’ Aces and The Grey, wanted to make a dark and gritty R-Rated trilogy set in the ’70s. The director took inspiration from the movies and music of the decade, and more importantly, Frank Miller’s highly influential Film Noir-styled take on the character.
Check out Joe Carnahan’s Daredevil sizzle reel below. This is what he used in his Daredevil pitch to Fox.
Before Carnahan could get pre-production started, Fox sold the rights of Daredevil and other characters (such as Ghost Rider and The Punisher) back to Marvel. Netflix’s Daredevil may be the roaring success fans have always wanted the adaptations to be, but Carnhan’s distinctly seedy and bleak period adaptation is something that will sadly remain a pipe dream.
2. George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal
#DC always wanted to make a #JusticeLeaguemovie, where DC’s most famous superheroes would team up and protect the world from otherworldly threats. The only problem was actually getting it off the ground and finding the right people to bring the story to the big screen. Enter George Miller, director of the #MadMaxfilms and Happy Feet.
According to D.J. Cotrona (who Miller picked to play #Superman) in his interview with Slash Film, audiences missed out on a superhero movie of epic proportions. Justice League: Mortal had Maxwell Lord stealing Batman’s files on the Justice League (the classic line-up, not the one in the New 52 universe) to exploit their weaknesses. Lord also leads a super-villain team in a final showdown that would pay homage to the iconic crossover event Crisis On Infinite Earths, while setting up Darkseid as the sequel’s villain.
Due to the Writers Guild Of America strike and the lack of cooperation from the Australian government approving shooting locations in the country, Justice League: Mortal was stuck in a permanent hiatus. With Zack Snyder’s somber Man Of Steel (2013)setting the mood for the DC Expanded Universe (#DCEU), Miller’s optimistic Justice League: Mortal had no place in the new shared universe.
Ultimately, the project was scrapped in favor of Snyder’s upcoming Justice League: Part One (2017). Check out the trailer for Justice League below.
1. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight: Part 2
The original plans for the sequel to #TheDarkKnightwould have showed how a psychopath like the #Joker (Heath Ledger) could legally get off the hook, just like he almost always did in the comics. (The famous Batman arc A Death In The Family comes to mind as one of the most notable.) This would put #Batman (Christian Bale) to the test, since his trust in the legal system would’ve been shaken by Joker’s sudden immunity. But the best part of this plot is that it would set up the immortal rivalry between Batman and The Joker.
Before The Dark Knight opened in cinemas, Heath Ledger sadly passed away in January 2008. Director Christopher Nolan explained to Empire that he dropped the Joker subplot and concluded his Batman movies with the third entry since he felt that it would be inappropriate to “try and account for a real-life tragedy.” Out of respect for Ledger, the Joker is never mentioned in The Dark Knight Rises since recasting Heath Ledger was never an option to begin with.
The only hint to the Joker’s final fate can be found in the novelization of the movie, which states that he’s either locked up in Arkham Asylum or he’s on the run after breaking out of the penal institution.
Even if fans lost the chance to see these particular creative ideas unfold on the big screen, superhero movies are now more popular than ever before. The consolation prize fans can take from these missed opportunities is that upcoming superhero movies seem to be taking creative hints from the projects that never materialized, guaranteeing that we’ll be able to see them in one form or another in the future.
What are the other missed superhero movie opportunities you know of that you wished you could see? Put them down in the comments section below.
Which missed opportunity would you have wanted to see the most?